Recognizing Red Flags

Without fail, following a holiday season, assisted living communities will see an increase in calls and inquiries from concerned family members looking for help.  What happens that makes this such a pivotal time?  Well like most of us, we live in a fast-paced world.  We don’t see each other as often as we would like.  Getting together, taking time to travel and perhaps having your senior loved one out of the comfort of their own home to celebrate a holiday creates obstacles.  During these visits, we might discover that simple tasks become difficult.  Things that we thought were okay, truly are not.  It may be time to consider the fact that Mom or Dad being at home alone just isn’t the best scenario anymore.

What are some of the BIG things to keep an eye on?  Let’s call these the BIG 3 RED FLAGS.

Red Flag Number One

Physical Changes:  The first things that come to mind here are weight and balance.  Has your loved one had a significant change?  Don’t miss the obvious signs.  Watch for changes in sleeping patterns too.  I also remind adult children to be sure and go with their parent to a doctor visit when they can.  Be sure the physician is aware of your concerns.  Role reversal is SO DIFFICULT!  But remember you can help be an advocate for the physical well-being of your loved one.

Red Flag Number Two

Mental Health:  This can be related to the sleep factor.  Too much or too little will obviously affect mental health.  But ask yourself and your loved one…how much interaction do they have with others?  Have there been changes in hygiene?  Is the home that was once spotless now in complete disarray?  If there is an obvious change in things that were once important or if they seem like they are disinterested in social activity, don’t just chalk it up to the aging process.  This may be a sign of a physical issue or they just may need more socialization.  Again, talk with them and their primary care physician to decide what will be the best intervention.

Red Flag Number Three

Medications:  Have you ever visited someone and they literally have medication all over the place?  It is a scary thing for someone to think that their loved one is unsure or unsafe when it comes to medications.  You want to be sure that the right medications are taken by the right person, the right route at the right time and the right dosage.  If you question this even for a minute, you don’t need to turn a blind eye.

It is not going to be easy.  As I said above ROLE REVERSAL is not for the faint of heart.  The hardest part may be just starting the conversation.  But it is a conversation that you don’t want to put off until “something happens”.  Here is an extremely useful tool that you can download now or check out on our website that will help open the conversation.  The “How Do I Know When It’s Time” checklist is a wonderful resource to help shed light on the option of Assisted Living.  Check it out today at http://www.gardensofeufaula.com/docs/Resources/HowWillIKnowWhenIamReadyHandout.pdf

The holidays are a great time to visit our communities.  For information on how to set up a tour at one of our Great Oaks Management properties call us today at 1-888-258-8082.

hold ornament

 

 

 

Advertisements

The Not So Young and Stress Less

I think that the hardest part of being a caregiver is dealing with the guilt. There is never enough time in the day. You bought the wrong kind of soap, stamps or razors or whatever it is…you just can’t catch a break. I think that life in general can sometimes be structured to wear us down. We think we are so smart being so connected and so able to communicate and work and multi-task.  Sometimes we just need to stop, push back and say…no.  I am the world’s WORST at this.  I don’t want to let anyone down.  In my mind…my goal is to help everyone.  But if I (or you) don’t take time to rest then how can we be good for anyone?  So here are some tips to de-program and reduce caregiver stress.

caregiver-stress

  • Ask for help. You know the help you have been providing.  But write down what that help entails.  No one person can do it alone.  It may even be time to consider the move to an assisted living.  Asking for help doesn’t mean you don’t care or that you are not going to be part of the team.  It just means you care enough to reach out.
  • Realize your limitations. It’s impossible to be all things to all people.  Sometimes our mindset that “only we can provide the help” is actually damaging for our loved ones.  You may be thinking that you are helping someone by enabling them to stay alone…when in actuality they may do better in a community setting and your “help” may be depriving them of a better situation. Meanwhile it may also be running you ragged!
  • Take time for you. If you think that only taking your loved ones to their doctor visits and cancelling your checkups is going to serve you well…think again. You need time to recharge your batteries and make sure that you are healthy both mentally and physically. Many caregivers suffer serious health issues while taking care of others. Be sure to take care of you!
  • Talk it out. Phone a friend.. Have dinner with your spouse or seek the counsel of a peer going through the same situation. You can even find support groups for caregivers.  Your stress is not in your head!  Not to mention that it is not good to keep it all inside.  Having a friendly chat can prove therapeutic and can also be a way to give and get advice for those sharing similar experiences.

caregiver-timeout

 

Putting on the Brakes

I remember the day I drove by myself for one of the first times. I remember in vivid detail driving to my grandparents’ house that day in Shorterville, Alabama. To ensure I drove safely…my parents sent my little brother to tag along. I had another friend in tow and after the three of us enjoyed my grandmother’s fried chicken and fixin’s on a Sunday afternoon we were soon on our way. A couple things I would have done differently given that opportunity again today. One I would have stayed longer. As an adult now with my grandparents both passed away for over nearly 20 years, I realize the importance of slowing down. The other thing I would have done differently is listened to my granddaddy when he said to “drive safely” as I waved bye and honked the horn. Had I listened, I probably would have avoided the little fender bender I had on the way home. It only took one little scare and I was convinced safety had to come first when I got behind the wheel. Driving at any age seems to some like having the keys to independence. But in many cases just having those keys doesn’t mean we SHOULD drive. Having this discussion is difficult no matter if you are discussing it with your teenage child or your aging parents. Many adult children are faced with the role reversal task of talking to their elderly parent about whether it’s time to put the car in park.

So, when do you know when it’s becoming time to talk to your aging loved one about putting on the brakes? According to the AARP, here are some of the warning signs that indicate a person should begin to limit or stop driving.

1. Almost crashing, with frequentred-light-stop “close calls”

2. Finding dents and scrapes on the car, on fences, mailboxes, garage doors, curbs, etc.

3. Getting lost, especially in familiar locations

4. Having trouble seeing or following traffic signals, road signs, and pavement markings

5. Responding more slowly to unexpected situations, or having trouble moving their foot from the gas to the brake pedal; confusing the two pedals

 
pexels-photo-68624If you find these troubling issues are the case for your loved one and you don’t see any possibility for improvement, then it may be time to have the tough discussion about letting others do the driving. AARP also has a great resource in the “We Need to Talk” program, developed by The Hartford and the MIT AgeLab that according to their site, “helps drivers and their loved ones to recognize warning signs. It also helps families initiate productive and caring conversations with older adults about driving safety.”

Age alone is not a predictor for poor driving skills. It is important to remember that medications, cognitive issues or physical limitations can impair driving ability. These factors must be considered for driver safety. Finally, if you drive with an aging parent or loved one and have concerns, don’t wait to initiate your concerns about whether it might be time to stop driving. Be an advocate for their safety and the safety of others. For more information on things to watch for if you have driving concerns see the Caring.com Checklist: 8 Ways to Assess Someone’s Driving. If you think they are a good candidate for assisted living please visit our website at http://www.greatoaksmanagement.com. Our properties offer transportation to appointments and for other outings.

Call today to get more information 1-888-258-8082.

Insider Information

Not too long ago, I had lunch with a friend of mine that also happened to be a sponsor of one of my residents.  She is also my neighbor, but I digress.  As we sipped sweet tea, I asked her what was one thing that she wished she knew more about before she moved her Dad into assisted living.  Here are a couple useful tips regarding doctor visits that she suggested that will make life easier if you are considering or have made the transition to an assisted living community.

Prep Doctor Visit Steps

Not only do assisted living communities offer scheduling and transportation to appointments for our residents…but we also provide useful tools for communication.   We all know that for every physician on the planet they all typically want us to bring our list of meds with us.  But here are some things that our staff will provide if you (or if we) are taking your family member to the doctor:

Pills

  • A current list of medication for all residents for doctor’s appointments (typically we can make a copy of their medication record from that day that ensures they have the most current info available)
  • Physician Communication Form (this form is an excellent tool where the doctor can detail their findings and diagnosis information as well as prescriptions or requests for follow-ups etc.  This helps provide a written outline of the doctor visit so that the sponsor and resident can communicate fully the needs the resident may require.  This form is typically stapled to the copy of the resident’s medication record and given to the sponsor/staff that will be going with the resident prior to the appointment.  Upon return to the community following the appointment, the sponsor can just give this to the Administrator or designee.  If a staff member took the resident to the appointment, they will then call the sponsor to provide the details from the appointment.  This is another reason that this tool is so useful.)

We also can help assist by providing documented weights and other health information that a physician may request.  Health information is protected per HIPPA guidelines.

older-man-dr-visit-daughter

Hopefully this prep will help make doctor visits less daunting.  As my friend explained, “when you have been the sole caregiver for an aging parent or loved one, you know them probably better than anyone.  But by allowing the staff at the assisted living to join forces with the resident, the sponsor and the physician…we become a team”.  This is an excellent analogy!  This TEAM is always looking out for the resident.  And the vital key is communication.  Another important thing that you need to know is that the medications should be in unit dose packaging if they will require staff assistance.  So just running a prescription to the pharmacy and picking up a bottle is NOT the way to go.  The ADPH rules and regulations are in place to protect.  So be sure to get the prescription to the administrator or contact them if you have any questions.  This will ensure that you or the staff have them filled properly and that the staff have the proper documentation for the resident chart.  Following these simple suggestions can make life easier for you, the staff at the assisted living and most importantly the resident.